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The Down Days

In the vein of The Book of M comes a fast-paced, character-driven literary apocalyptic novel that explores life, love, and loss in a post-truth society.

In the aftermath of a deadly outbreak—reminiscent of the 1962 event of mass hysteria that was the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic—a city at the tip of Africa is losing its mind, with residents experiencing hallucinations and paranoia. Is it simply another episode of mass hysteria, or something more sinister? In a quarantined city in which the inexplicable has already occurred, rumors, superstitions, and conspiracy theories abound.

During these strange days, Faith works as a fulltime corpse collector and a freelance “truthologist,” putting together disparate pieces of information to solve problems. But after Faith agrees to help an orphaned girl find her abducted baby brother, she begins to wonder whether the boy is even real. Meanwhile, a young man named Sans who trades in illicit goods is so distracted by a glimpse of his dream woman that he lets a bag of money he owes his gang partners go missing-leaving him desperately searching for both and soon questioning his own sanity.

Over the course of a single week, the paths of Faith, Sans, and a cast of other hustlers—including a data dealer, a drug addict, a sin eater, and a hyena man—will cross and intertwine as they move about the city, looking for lost souls, uncertain absolution, and answers that may not exist.

Ilze Hugo


Science Fiction, Ghost story, Mystery, Contemporary fantasy

Release Date:
May 2020

Skybound Books

368 Pages

6 x 9 Inches

Audiobook Length:

10 Hours & 30 Minutes


Hardcover, Ebook, or Audiobook from the following online retailers

Check out the free excerpt below

Watch Ilze talk with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about her new book

io9 has THE DOWN DAYS as one of their picks for May.


PopSugar says “Thank Goodness For These 25 Exciting New Books Coming Out in May.”


Amazon named THE DOWN DAYS one of their picks for best new sci-fi/fantasy books for May!


The Chicago Review of Books lists THE DOWN DAYS as one of “11 Must-Read Books For May.”


“The arresting prose, an effortless blend of Afrikaans slang and invented jargon, peppered with evocative turns of phrase (“the mountain was undercover, going full vigilante in a smoking gray cape”), elevates this from run-of-the-mill science fiction thriller. Fans of gritty environmental sci-fi will enjoy this dynamic, fast-paced debut.” – PublishersWeekly.com


“With a fresh new voice that jumps off the page and an incisive, probing plunge into the double-edged coin of survival and grief, The Down Days brings the tenacious synchronicity of Tom Robbins to science fiction with the pacing and mystery of a thriller.” -Delilah S. Dawson, New York Times Bestselling Author


“THE DOWN DAYS is one of the most accurate depictions of the strange realities of life during a pandemic… A shaggy dog story and modern noir, THE DOWN DAYS feels particularly familiar now, due in part to its strange blend of tragedy and absurdity… The result closely resembles Sam J. Miller’s BLACKFISH CITY, highly literary speculative fiction that blends elements of sci-fi and mysticism but grounds the high concepts with charming characters and a brilliantly realized setting… A surprisingly comforting work… The world may be dramatically changed, but when people are willing to take risks and work together, we can get through anything.” The A.V. Club


“Readers who enjoy meaty speculative fiction like THE POWER by Naomi Alderman will find much to chew on in THE DOWN DAYS, which poses extremely timely questions about faith, authority, hope and conspiracy theories.” BookPage


“We’re living in strange times. Why not face it head on and read a novel similar to our current reality? The Down Days is a fascinating story about the residents of an African city quarantined after an outbreak of laughter… The similarities will give you hope and change the way you think about holding onto your old way of life.” HelloGiggles

About the Author: Ilize Hugo

Ilze Hugo is a South African debut author with degrees in fine arts and English studies, along with a Masters in creative writing from the University of Cape Town. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies like The Ghost Eater and Other Stories and My Holiday Shorts. As a freelance writer, she’s written for magazines to guidebooks to ad campaigns and even the odd comic. She lives by the ocean in Muizenberg, Cape Town, with her husband and two children.

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